After a stubborn winter, you can be sure that everyone who can in DC will be out and lining up for every available seat on roof decks and patios. From scenic roofs to hipster beer gardens to historic, secluded courtyards, Washington has more than enough outdoor dining real estate to accommodate its Vitamin D-starved public. We picked 10 of our favorite outdoor dining spots for you to check out.
High-Class Nachos and Beer: American Ice Co.
Situated a block from the far corner of the busy U St. corridor, American Ice Co. feels like your very own discovery. Once you pass through the nondescript archway behind an unadorned concrete wall, you're greeted with a semi-enclosed patio with picnic tables that leads into a converted garage.
It's charming, industrial, and a great place to enjoy an expansive selection of craft (and not-so-craft) beers, from PBR to Tokyo Black, and a brief, but satisfying menu of sandwiches, half-smoke hot dogs, and "swachos" (swing + nachos = pork nachos). Replete with mason jars and spillover crowds from the 9:30 club, American Ice Co. is a bastion of hipsterism in DC and a great spot to knock back a pitcher or two.
German Pretzel Time: Biergarten Haus
H Street's Biergarten Haus is one of DC's most transporting dining experiences. From the decor to the polka to the beer, Biergarten Haus' oozes German charm throughout its double-decker patios. Grab a seat at one of the long, communal tables or a stool at a barrel-turned-table top and it won't feel like DC at all.
The beer doesn't disappoint either, with an extensive selection of German taps ranging from a Franziskaner Hefe-Weizen to a Spaten Dopplebock, and the food's no throwaway either. Throw in some laugenbrezel (pretzel rolls) and schnitzel and you'll be well equipped to luxuriate a warm weekend afternoon away.
Upgraded Bar Chow: Blue Duck Tavern
True Blue Duck Tavern is situated inside the Hyatt hotel in the West End, but the tavern has done an admirable job of maintaining its own identity, with well-made American cuisine by chef Sebastien Archambault. From suckling pig pulled pork to jumbo lump crab cakes, Archambault polishes even simple comfort foods to an impressive veneer. Blue Duck's handsome patio, protected from the street by a red brick wall, is a commensurately attractive setting to enjoy a meal at one of the most sought after tables in the city.
Belgian Seafood: Brasserie Beck
A standout for all things Belgian, Brasserie Beck has a lock on the moules-frites scene downtown. Mussels (from an exclusive rights deal with the Penn Cove farm in Washington state) are served classically in a white wine broth (or in others like a spicy Thai curry or veal bolognese) alongside some of the best frites in town—perfectly fried and seasoned. Grab a seat under an umbrella on the spacious patio and wash it all down with an impressive selection of Belgian beer—Trappist and Lambic brews pair well with the rich seafood.
Modern Mediterranean: Iron Gate
Iron Gate has the special distinction of occupying the building of the former longest operating restaurant in DC. Formerly a Civil War cavalry officer's quarters, the space is steeped in history. The entrance is a beautifully converted covered alley that now serves as Iron Gate's bar. Past that is a romantic courtyard garden covered in grapevines and wisteria that's just separated enough from the street to feel like another place altogether. It's perhaps one of the most picturesque places to eat in DC.
Find a seat in the garden for a Greek-themed menu prepared by chef Tony Chittum (a separate interior dining room offers a prix fixe tasting menu). Pastas like bucatini with shaved chilies and gemelli with rabbit, mustard, and olive crackle with spice, and each day features a different spit-roasted animal; the goat ribs are tantalizingly smoky and tender.
Classic French: Le Diplomate
Resterateur Stephen Starr's DC premier from last year is still going strong; the sprawling Parisian-styled brasserie continues to be one of the hottest tables on 14th Street. Boasting a menu filled with Gallic staples like rich and buttery steak frites and ridiculously creamy foie gras parfaits, Le Diplomate has become a go-to for solid French cuisine in DC.
It also has one of the largest patios on 14th and is a great spot to enjoy a classic French meal accompanied by people watching on one of the busiest social corridors in Washington. The whicker seats and street-facing tables (on the 14th Street side) feel distinctly Parisian, a good fit for a meal in the sun.
Bistro Fare: Poste Moderne Brasserie
Hidden away inside the Hotel Monaco in one of the most heavily trafficked neighborhoods in DC, Poste miraculously feels miles away from the tourist chaos outside its walls. Couch-like seating, fire pits for nippy evenings (along with complementary blankets), and high walls to block out the outside world make Poste's courtyard something of an oasis. Both spacious and quiet, it's perfect for a group or even an intimate date. Poste's brasserie-style fare ranges from soups and salads to duck breast and a raw bar, but truffle frites are a can't-miss item. The same goes for the cocktails.
More Great Bar Bites: Roofers Union
From the owners and chef behind Cleveland Park's Ripple, Roofers Union is a welcome addition to Adam's Morgan. The American-style beer garden covers three floors, the third of which is a roof deck with an expansive view of the neighborhood. Roofers Union features a simple menu broken out into the alliterative Snacks, Simple, and Side, rounded out by a crispy pig ear salad accompanied by a soft egg and addictive honey Sriracha wings. The 20-strong draft list is categorized by flavor profile, and exploring it is an ideal way to spend time on the roof looking out over the DC skyline, with the Washington Monument and Capitol in the distance.
Brunch: Room 11
Room 11 is a small gem in Columbia Heights, one of DC's best and most intimate cocktail bars, with a great patio as a bonus. Quiet and unhurried, the patio is an ideal spot for a leisurely brunch. Half-Korean, half-Swiss chef Neil Negri does a menu of standard American fare but with some Korean touches. Right alongside the biscuits and gravy you'll find traditional Korean short ribs with house-made kimchi served with a fried egg, a hangover helper if ever there was one. Order a French press coffee for your table and sit back on the corner patio, taking in one of DC's mellower outdoor eating spots.
All-Out Great Food: Rose's Luxury
Since opening last autumn, chef and owner Aaron Silverman's Rose's Luxury has continued to be the toast of the DC food scene. His eclectic menu spanning Southern comfort food to pho to weirdly delicious concoctions like the pork lychee salad has consistently been drawing long waits and raves from diners and critics alike.
Rose's Luxury is styled like a townhouse with antique couches and knickknacks strewn throughout. A front door opens out to a small patio with a handful of tables as an extension of the main dining room. You're here for one of the best meals in DC, but the view of Barrack's Row is a nice added bonus.